What is (Christian) Gnosticism?
There are many subtle “Christian Teachers” emerging, teaching borderline Gnostic ideas and leading believers off the narrow path.
Gnosticism was a dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “to know.” Gnostics believe they possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plane of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God. Many “Christian Gnostics” will tell you that God has given them “special revelation” or has revealed some “hidden meaning” in Scripture.
While the principles of Gnosticism contradict what it means to be a Christian, there are many professing Christians whose beliefs and teachings border on the gnostic. And, most importantly, while these “Gnostic Christians” may claim to be Christian, they are definitely not Christians.
Lets start with what it means to be a Christian.
The Biblical definition of a Christian is one who is a Christ-follower (the name “Christian” means “little Christ”), and a disciple of Jesus. Biblical discipleship is defined within the great commission, and essentially means to become a student of Jesus. Discipleship is receiving Biblical teaching, through another Christian or by the Word of God, by the authority of Jesus – to “observe ALL” that Jesus has commanded:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
- Matthew 28:18-20 KJV
Many false teachers with gnostic undertones will diminish and even oftentimes deny God’s expectation that we obey Jesus after salvation. This is because Gnosticism is based on two false premises:
First, it promotes a dualism regarding “spirit” and “flesh”. Gnostics believe anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no bearing in the physical world because life exists in the spirit realm only. Therefore, they believe that whatever is done “in the flesh” is inconsequential to the physical body or the person, and most definitely inconsequential to God since they seem to believe that since Jesus was crucified, God somehow accepts their sin. While a born-again believer does experience a “circumcision” of the spirit and the flesh, that which is done in the flesh affects the body and the spirit.
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.
- Colossians 2:11 KJV
This dualistic view should be a great indicator of error when listening to certain false “Gnostic Christian” teachers. They will oftentimes diminish sin, even the most heinous thereof, in light of the mental assent (or a mental agreement) that Christ existed to pay the sin penalty.
MENTAL ASSENTION vs. TRUE FAITH
While salvation is truly by grace through faith, the mental assent of the gnostic looks so much like faith that many people cannot distinguish one from the other. The difference is: Mental assent agrees with God but doesn’t believe God, it merely accepts God’s Word as “truth”, but denies that God’s truth has an impact on the believer. Thus, you will often hear the Gnostic Christian diminish the work of the Holy Spirit that takes place in a believer which results in a changed life.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
– Philippians 1:6 KJV
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
– Galatians 2:20 KJV
True faith believes and trusts in the Word of God, even in difficult areas of scripture that are difficult to comprehend. True faith is “evidenced” in the believer.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
– Hebrews 11:1 KJV
Consequently, gnostic Christians diminish “repentance of sin”, which is part of the progressive sanctification that takes place in a Christian as they grow as a disciple. False “Gnostic Christian teachers” view it as unnecessary, and will often only agree that repentance is a “change of mind” from “not believing in God” to “believing in God”. But their portrayal of repentance is not exactly the whole picture.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
- Luke 15:7 KJV
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
– Matthew 9:13 KJV
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. – Acts 8:21-22 KJV
And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
– 2 Corinthians 12:21 KJV
While you do not have to repent of sins FIRST – BEFORE you can be saved, it is certainly something that should take place within a true believer (as evidenced throughout scripture), as you grow and mature in the Lord. Repentance (of sin) should come from conviction, brought on through the Holy Spirit, which produces godly sorrow:
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
– 2 Corinthians 7:10 KJV
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
– Psalm 34:18 KJV
While it IS correct that repentance carries with it the idea of changing your mind, it also encompasses changing your attitude and changing your ways.
For example, you cannot change your mind about banging your head against a wall, deciding that it hurts and is no good for you, only to continue to do it. A reasonable, natural reaction is to STOP banging your head against the wall once you have changed your mind about it. If we are truly repentant, our will is brought into action and we will make a reversal of direction.
False Gnostic “Christian” teachers will oftentimes diminish or deny the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit within a Christian (again, they are AGREEING with the WORD but not believing it).
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
- 2 Corinthians 5:2 KJV
And God gives born-again Christians a new heart that is now turned toward obeying and pleasing Him rather than ourselves:
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
– 2 Corinthians 5:9 KJV
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
- Romans 8:5-6 KJV
Whereas we were formerly slaves to sin, we are now “slaves to righteousness” Sin’s control has been broken by the power of Jesus.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
– Romans 6:16 KJV
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
– Titus 2:14 KJV
God’s “Special Revelation” to the Gnostic Christian
Secondly, Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge or a “higher truth”.
You will oftentimes hear fake Gnostic Christian teachers talking about everything EXCEPT the Bible – getting off into different theories that have absolutely nothing to do with the Bible, if only through speculation and insinuation. The focus is then shifted away from scripture, and placed into different areas, none of which contribute to the growth of neither spiritual understanding of the Bible nor the maturity of the believer. They turn their listeners down a path of attaining some sort of deep, mystic, and divine knowledge. The temptation of the listener is then shifted away from sound Biblical doctrine onto deep thoughts, reflection, speculation and meditation (Gnosticism). This more often than not, leads a believer into error. They will oftentimes possess a rabid suspicion of authority, rejection of earthly systems, a morbid obsession with NASA and flat-earth, the chromosomes of Jesus, the scarlet worm theory and can even branch off into odd theories about hybrid humans and reptilian overlords.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
– Matthew 7:13-15 KJV
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
- 1 Timothy -6:3-5 KJV
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4 KJV
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jude 1:4 KJV
Anna Cheslick is the wife of Scott Cheslick and the creator of Humble Woman Ministries. Scott and Anna created Pure Word Ministries in December of 2017 as a means of Evangelical outreach through Social Media.
Her passion is writing about God's Word in order to build-up, encourage and edify others and to glorify God.